Thursday, April 16, 2009

Writing about reading and annoyed librarians

I'm interested in the discussion about the fate of thinking, culture, books, reading, attention spans etc. in the digital age, and have posted about it here from time to time. But only recently did I discover Walt Crawford's excellent summary of the debate in Writing about Reading 2...which led me back to Writing about Reading 1. Required reading if you're interested in these issues. A thing that puzzles me however is the rancor with which many in the library community dismiss the claims of prophets of doom who go on about the erosion of our reading and reasoning abilities by new technologies. They are after all defending librarianly values, and a more appropriate response - if one disagrees, and I don't always - with people like Michael Gorman, Sven Birkerts, the NEH and Dana Gioia, Susan Jacoby, Nick Carr, Lee Siegel, Andrew Keen, etc. etc. would be a friendly and reassuring "Oh come come, things aren't so bad as all that. Remember [pat on back] there's nothing new under the sun, you haven't forgotten what Socrates said about writing, have you? But thanks for being concerned and sticking up for those things libraries are all about." You sure don't hear much of that last bit though; instead, many librarians get completely bent out of shape by such well-intentioned admonition, and contempt is showered on these valiant knights. I don't get it...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the note.

    I think there are good reasons for some of that rancor and contempt--but then, I don't see the doom-cryers as "defending librarianly values." And let's face it: Some of us who find the doom-cryers to be peddling bad research and worse interpretation are relative nobodies, without the huge audience of Birkerts, Keen, NEH and the like.

    There's another discussion here, and not a brief one...or one I'm prepared to write at this point.